Former ag Secretary calls on younger generation to improve the ag industry |

Former ag Secretary calls on younger generation to improve the ag industry

Tom Vilsack

CSU AgInnovation Summit 2.0

The College of Agricultural Sciences hosted a summit at Colorado State University to discuss how innovation in the industry can lead to a global impact in the way that populations farm, feed, eat and grow crops.

Local industry leaders participated in the event to spark the conversation surrounding best practices and future goals for how agriculture can continue to support the growing population, while best utilizing resources.

This year’s event, the second summit of its kind hosted by the college, was held Sept. 6-7. This year’s theme was Innovate Locally, Impact Globally.

With a new generation heading into the work force, in a position where they can start making a change in the agriculture industry, former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack called on them to work to make that difference.

Vilsack was the keynote speaker on Sept. 6 at the Colorado State University AgInnovation Summit 2.0. held in the Lory Student Center. Vilsack, who was the longest tenured member of former President Barack Obama’s original cabinet, used his time to explain why young people can use food and agriculture as the first platform to bring people with different viewpoints together for a common good.

“My pitch here is for young people to get engaged,” he said.

Vilsack, who now serves as the CEO and president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, pointed to labeling as a problem he thinks can be easily solved.

Some companies will label milk with “no antibiotics” while others don’t. The catch is, no milk has antibiotics in it.

“(But) doesn’t it at least raise a suggestion that the other one does?” Vilsack asked.

What it comes down to is the label is misleading.

Plus, when you have a community-based culture, as seen in ag, it’s not beneficial to the industry as a whole when it turns against itself.

“Let’s be honest. Let’s not try to (hurt) another’s product,” Vilsack said.


People should be able to find a solution to food availability and waste, Vilsack said.

“It’s going to be hard for us to find anyone (on the political spectrum) who thinks food waste is a good idea,” he said. But it’s not only food waste that’s a problem. Having food accessible to everyone is another issue that everyone can agree on.

Vilsack said there are a number of people who struggle with a lack of accessible food, and young people need to find a way to work together to solve the problem so there isn’t a lack of food availability.

The common belief that we don’t want others to suffer due to a lack of food, Vilsack said, can be key to working together toward a common goal.

Vilsack said more accessible food will lead to less health concerns, and less health concerns lead to less time away from school. That’s just part of the reason access to food is important.

Food also is important to the U.S., and most cultures. Vilsack pointed to food being an integral part of celebrations, such as weddings, but also in times of sadness, such as funerals. It brings communities together, Vilsack said.

But more than that, Vilsack said, the problems with food accessibility or waste is a way to get people to work together, despite the country, “being more polarized.”

“A progressive kid down the hall can get together with a conservative kid and do something about it,” he said. ❖